Celebratory accounts of U.S. history have shied from the word “empire”, the one exception being the tendency to hold up the years around 1898 as an aberration in the longer sweep of events. More critical accounts, however, have not hesitated to use the term in reference to the United States, and indeed, recent scholarship has emphasized that the 1898 moment fit into a larger continuum, stretching back at least as far as the origins of the republic and extending forward to our own time. With these debates as its backdrop, this workshop will focus on the United States in world context around the turn of the twentieth century. More specifically, seminar participants will explore how the imperial turn in U.S. history writing has affected understandings of the United States at the beginning of its ascent to great power status. Going beyond traditional diplomatic and military history approaches to the Spanish-Cuban-American and Philippine-American Wars (and other U.S. military interventions), participants will consider topics such as “informal empire,” racial ideologies, gender politics, and consumer culture. The seminar will end with some reflections on American exceptionalism (or lack thereof), anticolonial nationalism, postcolonial legacies, and the connections between this imperial age and the present.
Seminar led by Kristin Hoganson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign